11 September 2009

Nuclear Shutdown

If you have a family history of heart disease, have ever had a heart attack , know someone who has, the news of a nuclear reactor being permanently shut down may have a major impact on the quality of life. The Canadian reactor shutdown has caused a shortage of a radioactive isotope used to detect cancer and heart disease.

Approximately 40,00 patients each day undergo medical imaging procedures using the isotope technetium-99. 80% of nuclear medicine scans use it.

91% of hospitals, pharmacies and commercial imaging groups that responded to a Society of Nuclear Medicine survey said that the shortage has affected them. The Canadian reactor and another one in the Netherlands (which is shut down for several weeks for maintenance) produce most of the U.S. and European supply. The U.S. is able to get a small supply from South Africa.

Technetium-99, processed from molybdenum-99, is used in body scans for cancer, heart disease and kidney illness. It's combined with a substance to target a specific tumor or organ.

Some tests are now using a different isotope. The radiation dose is higher, it takes longer to do the tests and the image quality is not as good.

**From an article by The Associated Press